Frame, Douglas. 2022. “The End of the Odyssey.” In “Poetic (Mis)quotations in Plato,” ed. Gwenda-lin Grewal. Special issue, Classics@ 22. http://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HLNC.ESSAY:102302566.
§21. Before pursuing a more narrowly defined sixth-century context for the end of our Odyssey, there is the other side of the problem to consider first. If a new Athenian ending was given to the poem, what was the old ending that it replaced? This question of course cannot be answered, but it is still worth considering. A viable answer would have to arise out of the poem itself, and more than one possibility suggests itself. An interesting idea that Gregory Nagy suggested to me is that the poem might have ended with a festival of Apollo. Such a festival is already a feature of the poem, though only in the background. This festival takes place in the grove of Apollo on the very day that Odysseus strings the bow and kills the suitors. We hear of it first incidentally following an exchange between Antinous and Telemachus inside the palace (Odyssey 20.275–278): 
The heralds came through the town driving the holy hecatomb
of the gods, and the flowing-haired Achaeans assembled under
the shady grove of him who strikes from afar, Apollo.
Later, when the suitor Eurymachus fails to string the bow and decries the shame if all the suitors should fail, Antinous counters his gloom with a remark on the festival taking place this day (Odyssey 21.256–260): 
“It will not happen that way, Eurymachus. You yourself know this.
Now there is a holy feast in the community
for the god. Who could string bows then? Put it away now
for our good time.”
It is of course on this day that Odysseus will string the bow, and Antinous has unwittingly set the stage for him to do so. Antinous’ question, who could string the bow on Apollo’s feast day, has an answer: Odysseus could, and will. There is further irony when Antinous sets the next day for the suitors to try the bow again: there will be no next day for the suitors. Antinous has it exactly wrong in what he says about stringing a bow on Apollo’s feast day. This is made clear in the event. Odysseus, after stringing the bow and sending an arrow through the axes, asks Apollo’s help in taking aim at Antinous (Odyssey 22.5–8): 
Now I shall shoot at another mark, one that no man yet
has struck, if I can hit it and Apollo grants me the glory.”
He spoke, and steered a bitter arrow against Antinous.
Apollo’s festival in the Odyssey is widely assumed to be that for the new moon, which, with other divisions of the month, was sacred to Apollo. The identification of the new moon festival rests on the word lukabas which the disguised Odysseus twice uses of his own impending return, speaking first to Eumaeus and then to Penelope (Odyssey 14.16l–162, 19.306–307): 
when one month ends and another begins.
While both meaning and etymology are obscure for the word lukabas, it is clearly connected here with the interlunium, the dark of the moon: the hidden Odysseus will reappear like the moon after its three days in hiding. 
§22. Let us suppose that the Ionian Odyssey did end, not with Athena, but with Apollo. Would the ending have featured a continuation of the new moon festival? There is a problem with that. When the day of blood-filled archery ends with the reunion of Odysseus and Penelope in their marriage bed, the new moon festival, it would seem, is over. That is implied by Antinous’ words when he rejects Apollo’s festival day for any further attempts with the bow, and instead bids the suitors supplicate Apollo and try again the next day, when there will be, it would seem, no festival of Apollo to hinder them (Odyssey 21.263–68): 
so we can make a libation and put away the curved bow;
then at dawn instruct Melanthius, who is the goatherd,
to bring in goats, those far the best in all of his goatflocks,
so that, dedicating the thighs to the glorious archer
Apollo, we can attempt the bow and finish the contest.”
It is apparently a private sacrifice for the archer god that Antinous envisions, and not a prolongation of the public festival, which has already been duly celebrated with a hecatomb. In the Ionian Odyssey was such a private sacrifice to Apollo perhaps carried out, not by the suitors as proposed by Antinous, as part of a vow to the god, but by Odysseus and his family in order to give the god thanks? Odysseus has not promised anything to Apollo in our Odyssey, but perhaps he did so in the Ionian Odyssey. Whether he did so or not, some recognition of Apollo’s help seems not out of place at the end of the poem. There is another point worth considering, and that is Apollo’s role in the purifying of pollution, but this too has problems. Murder in Homer is expiated by exile, as in the case of the seer Theoclymenus,  or less often by compensation, as in the litigation scene on the shield of Achilles, and not by purification.  Moreover there is no hint in the Odyssey that Odysseus has polluted himself in murdering the suitors.  Still, the possibility of purification should not be dismissed.
αἴ κέ ποθι Ζεὺς δῷσι παλίντιτα ἔργα γενέσθαι·
νήποινοί κεν ἔπειτα δόμων ἔντοσθεν ὄλοισθε.
The root of Greek τίνω, “pay back,” is found in both παλίν τι τα ἔργα and νή ποι νοι, which I have rendered as “vengeance” and “unavenged” respectively. The related ideas of “requital” and “compensation” are also present in this context, which concerns the suitors’ feasting on another’s property “without compensation” (νήποινον, line 377). Telemachus says that he will call on the gods for “requital,” which, however, is to go beyond compensation for property. The suitors’ feasting “without compensation” will end in their deaths “without compensation” if Zeus grants Telemachus’ prayer; the suitors, that is, will die “unavenged.”
καὶ μέν τίς τε κασιγνήτοιο φονῆος
ποινὴν ἢ οὗ παιδὸς ἐδέξατο τεθνηῶτος·
καί ῥ’ ὃ μὲν ἐν δήμῳ μένει αὐτοῦ πόλλ’ ἀποτίσας,
τοῦ δέ τ’ ἐρητύεται κραδίη καὶ θυμὸς ἀγήνωρ
“And yet a man takes from his brother’s slayer
the blood price, or the price for a child who was killed, and the guilty
one, when he has largely repaid, stays still in the country,
and the injured man’s heart is curbed, and his pride, and his anger
when he has taken the price.”
(Translations of this and most other Homeric passages are Richmond Lattimore’s.)
εἴ περ γὰρ κτείναιμι Διός τε σέθεν τε ἕκητι,
πῇ κεν ὑπεκπροφύγοιμι; τά σε φράζεσθαι ἄνωγα.
σχέτλιε, καὶ μέν τίς τε χερείονι πείθεθ’ ἑταίρῳ,
ὅς περ θνητός τ’ ἐστὶ καὶ οὐ τόσα μήδεα οἶδεν·
αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ θεός εἰμι, διαμπερὲς ἥ σε φυλάσσω
ἐν πάντεσσι πόνοισ’. ἐρέω δέ τοι ἐξαναφανδόν·
εἴ περ πεντήκοντα λόχοι μερόπων ἀνθρώπων
νῶϊ περισταῖεν, κτεῖναι μεμαῶτες Ἄρηϊ,
καί κεν τῶν ἐλάσαιο βόας καὶ ἴφια μῆλα.
ἀλλ’ ἑλέτω σε καὶ ὕπνος· ἀνίη καὶ τὸ φυλάσσειν
πάννυχον ἐγρήσσοντα, κακῶν δ’ ὑποδύσεαι ἤδη.
“Stubborn man! Anyone trusts even a lesser companion
than I, who is mortal, and does not have so many ideas.
But I am a god, and through it all I keep watch over you
in every endeavor of yours. And now I tell you this plainly:
even though there were fifty battalions of mortal people
standing around us, furious to kill in the spirit of battle,
even so you could drive away their cattle and fat sheep.
So let sleep take you now. There is annoyance in lying
awake and on guard all night. You will soon be out of your troubles.”
ἡμεῖς δὲ φραζώμεθ’, ὅπως ὄχ’ ἄριστα γένηται.
καὶ γάρ τίς θ’ ἕνα φῶτα κατακτείνας ἐνὶ δήμῳ,
ᾧ μὴ πολλοὶ ἔωσιν ἀοσσητῆρες ὀπίσσω,
φεύγει πηούς τε προλιπὼν καὶ πατρίδα γαῖαν·
ἡμεῖς δ’ ἕρμα πόληος ἀπέκταμεν, οἳ μέγ’ ἄριστοι
κούρων εἰν Ἰθάκῃ· τὰ δέ σε φράζεσθαι ἄνωγα.
“But let us make our plans how all will come out best for us.
For when one has killed only one man in a community,
and then there are not many avengers to follow, even
so, he flees into exile, leaving kinsmen and country.
But we have killed what held the city together, the finest
young men in Ithaka. It is what I would have you consider.”
αὐτὰρ θεῖος ἀοιδὸς ἔχων φόρμιγγα λίγειαν
ὑμῖν ἡγείσθω πολυπαίγμονος ὀρχηθμοῖο,
ὥς κέν τις φαίη γάμον ἔμμεναι ἐκτὸς ἀκούων,
ἢ ἀν’ ὁδὸν στείχων ἢ οἳ περιναιετάουσι·
μὴ πρόσθε κλέος εὐρὺ φόνου κατὰ ἄστυ γένηται
ἀνδρῶν μνηστήρων, πρίν γ’ ἡμέας ἐλθέμεν ἔξω
ἀγρὸν ἐς ἡμέτερον πολυδένδρεον. ἔνθα δ’ ἔπειτα
φρασσόμεθ’, ὅττί κε κέρδος Ὀλύμπιος ἐγγυαλίξῃ.
“Then let the inspired singer take his clear-sounding lyre,
and give us the lead for festive dance, so that anyone
who is outside, some one of the neighbors, or a person going
along the street, who hears us, will think we are having a wedding.
Let no rumor go abroad in the town that the suitors
have been murdered, until such time as we can make our way
out to our estate with its many trees, and once there,
see what profitable plan the Olympian shows us.”
θάρσει, ἐπεὶ δή σ’ οὗτος ἐρύσατο καὶ ἐσάωσεν,
ὄφρα γνῷς κατὰ θυμόν, ἀτὰρ εἴπῃσθα καὶ ἄλλῳ,
ὡς κακοεργίης εὐεργεσίη μέγ’ ἀμείνων.
ἀλλ’ ἐξελθόντες μεγάρων ἕζεσθε θύραζε
ἐκ φόνου εἰς αὐλήν, σύ τε καὶ πολύφημος ἀοιδός,
ὄφρ’ ἂν ἐγὼ κατὰ δῶμα πονήσομαι ὅττεό με χρή.
“Do not fear. Telemachus has saved you and kept you
alive, so you may know in your heart, and say to another,
that good dealing is better by far than evil dealing.
But go out now from the palace and sit outside, away from
the slaughter, in the courtyard, you and the versatile singer,
so that I can do in the house the work that I have to.”
Cf. also Odyssey 22.413–416, where Odysseus, restraining Eurykleia from exulting over the slain suitors, says that the “fate of the gods” and their own “wicked deeds” (σχέτλια ἔργα) have destroyed them.
“ὦ φίλοι, ἦ μέγα ἔργον ἀνὴρ ὅδε μήσατ’ Ἀχαιούς·
τοὺς μὲν σὺν νήεσσιν ἄγων πολέας τε καὶ ἐσθλοὺς
ὤλεσε μὲν νῆας γλαφυράς, ἀπὸ δ’ ὤλεσε λαούς,
τοὺς δ’ ἐλθὼν ἔκτεινε Κεφαλλήνων ὄχ’ ἀρίστους.
“Friends, this man’s will worked great evil upon the Achaians.
First he took many excellent men away in the vessels
with him, and lost the hollow ships, and lost all the people,
and then returning killed the best men of the Kephallenians.”
Note that in 22.317 and 22.416 the suitors are said to have perished through their own “recklessness,” ἀτασθαλίῃσιν, the word used in relation to the comrades’ self-inflicted doom in 1.7. In 1.34 Zeus uses the same word of mortals like Aegisthus who blame the gods for woes they bring on themselves.
κήρυκες δ’ ἀνὰ ἄστυ θεῶν ἱερὴν ἑκατόμβην
ἦγον· τοὶ δ’ ἀγέροντο κάρη κομόωντες Ἀχαιοὶ
ἄλσος ὕπο σκιερὸν ἑκατηβόλου Ἀπόλλωνος.
“Εὐρύμαχ’, οὐχ οὕτως ἔσται· νοέεις δὲ καὶ αὐτός.
νῦν μὲν γὰρ κατὰ δῆμον ἑορτὴ τοῖο θεοῖο
ἁγνή· τίς δέ κε τόξα τιταίνοιτ’; ἀλλὰ ἕκηλοι
νῦν αὖτε σκοπὸν ἄλλον, ὃν οὔ πώ τις βάλεν ἀνήρ,
εἴσομαι, αἴ κε τύχωμι, πόρῃ δέ μοι εὖχος Ἀπόλλων.”
ἦ, καὶ ἐπ’ Ἀντινόῳ ἰθύνετο πικρὸν ὀϊστόν.
τοῦ μὲν φθίνοντος μηνός, τοῦ δ’ ἱσταμένοιο.
ὄφρα σπείσαντες καταθείομεν ἀγκύλα τόξα·
ἠῶθεν δὲ κέλεσθε Μελάνθιον, αἰπόλον αἰγῶν,
αἶγας ἄγειν, αἳ πᾶσι μέγ’ ἔξοχοι αἰπολίοισιν,
ὄφρ’ ἐπὶ μηρία θέντες Ἀπόλλωνι κλυτοτόξῳ
τόξου πειρώμεσθα καὶ ἐκτελέωμεν ἄεθλον.
Λυσανίη, σὺ δὲ ναίχι καλὸς καλὸς· ἀλλὰ πρὶν εἰπεῖν
τοῦτο σαφῶς ἠχώ φησί τις “ἄλλος ἔχει.”Lusanias, you are very beautiful, beautiful. But before
saying [= I have said] this clearly, an echo says ‘another has him’.For a different interpretation, in which ἠχώ instead of an understood ‘me’ is subject of the infinitive εἰπεῖν, see Anderson 2021: 44–45. As Gregory Nagy has pointed out to me, Ovid in the story of Echo and Narcissus also has examples of the beginning of an utterance being lost in an echo (Metamorphoses 3.380, 3.386–387, 3.391–392; cf. 3.368–369). In Homer there is a curious parallel with admittedly minimal relevance to my suggestion for Ἀλύβας: in Iliad 2.857, in the catalogue of Trojan allies, Halizones from Alybe were instead said by some to be from Chalybe, ἐκ Χαλύβης replacing ἐξ Ἀλύβης in order to connect the tribe with the iron-mining Chalybes (Strabo 12.3.20).